Blueberry Crumble with Vanilla-Oat Streusel

Sunday August 12, 2012

The beginning baker is attracted to old-fashioned rustic fruit desserts as much as a seasoned one. Just because they are fast and easy, doesn’t mean they are fabulous tasting. Enter the fruit crisp.

Crisps are essentially deep-dish fruit pies without the fuss of a top or bottom crust, but coated with a thick top layer of enticingly sweet streusel crumbs. When the streusel is layered in with the fruit it becomes a brown Betty.  A crumble is the English version of the crisp, usually containing oats in the topping.

Crisps are easy to prepare year-round with the best of the season–apples and pears throughout the winter and blueberries and plums in the summer months.  They may be made with a single fruit or in combination, such as apples with berries, peaches with canned sour or fresh sweet cherries, or the classic combination of rhubarb and strawberries. A combination of 3 or 4 mixed berries is real popular this year. The secret of combining flour with a bit of cornstarch is for thickening fruit that exudes lots of juice when heated.  Crisps may be fully assembled and refrigerated a few hours ahead, then baked just before serving time.

Streusel is an old German bakery term for the “rubbed” mixture of fat, flour, and sugar used liberally on sweet breads and pastries.  Streusels are made in a variety of proportions, creating toppings and fillings that range from sugary-encrusted to cakey-soft thick crumbs.  Margarine may be substituted for the butter, if desired.  The topping may be made the day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator until the fruit is prepared and ready to be sprinkled with the delicious layer.

Since the topping is sweet, there is only enough sugar to accent the fruit and during baking the streusel will seep down and help thicken the juices.

If you are a cinnamon buff, as I am, use different types as an accent flavor.  Cassia cinnamon is from China and Indonesia, and is characterized by its strong, sweet flavor and aroma.  It is what commercial spice companies use and is available in supermarkets.  Ceylon, or “true” cinnamon is less potent than cassia cinnamon, but is rich, subtle, and more complex.  It is hand harvested and very popular in Europe and Mexico.  High-grade cinnamons may be ordered from Penzeys Spice House catalog (414-574-0277) in Wisconsin.

If you have never made a blueberry crisp, you are in for a very good treat. I notice now large containers of blueberries for a good price, enough to make a small crisp (this recipe needs about 2 of the big containers). Perfect for baking. And stashing one or two in the freezer for later.

Serve blueberry crisp at its peak, the day it is made, warm or at room temperature with lightly whipped cream, a pitcher of heavy cream, a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt, or just plain, as desired.  Here I include a Rum Whipped Cream (recipe following) that is stablized with some sour cream. Really, you will be hooked at first bite. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator and devour the remainders the next day.

Blueberry Crumble with Vanilla-Oat Streusel

Serves 6


  • Topping
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour mix (like from Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup rolled oats, old-fashioned or quick cooking
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 cups (3 pints) fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch


To make the topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, and salt.  Sprinkle the vanilla over the surface.  Cut in the butter pieces with your fingers, pastry cutter, or food processor until evenly moistened and soft coarse crumbs are formed.  Set aside.

Place the blueberries in an even layer into a shallow, buttered 10-inch pie plate or 1 1/2 quart ceramic gratin dish.  Sprinkle with the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, flour, and cornstarch, tossing to evenly coat the fruit.  Cover the fruit with all of the topping to make a thick layer.

Bake in the center of a preheated 350º until the berries are bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Rum Whipped Cream

Makes 2 1/4 cups

  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Place the bowl and beater in the freezer for at least 1 hour to thoroughly chill.  Place the cream, brown sugar, and rum in the bowl.  Whip on high speed with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Fold in the sour cream.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2012

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

Your Comments

2 comments Comments Feed
  1. Beth 19/01/2017 at 6:01 am

    yes it goes into the topping.

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